The “Kids-Teaching-Kids” Method of Implementing Technology in Elementary School

Rolling out new technology to a full class of elementary students is an intimidating task. No matter how well you model the tool with a projector, most students will not properly learn until they use the tool, make mistakes, and get assistance along the way. When a rollout happens at once, however, with a class of 15-25 kids, a lone teacher can easily become overwhelmed. There are ways to assuage this problem. You could bring in extra teachers to help your class. You could enlist older students to assist younger students. Or, if students have their own resources at home (or are in a 1:1 setting), you could flip the lesson using a video screen cast and hope students have parents or siblings around to troubleshoot when problems arise.

When my students recently started a video vocabulary project using iPads with Doodlecast Pro, I chose another way of implementing the new technology. Rather than trying to show my entire class how to create videos, I started with two students.

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Photo credit to K. W. Barrett (Flickr).

The next day those two paired up with (and taught) two other students. Later, those four taught four more, the eight eventually expanded to sixteen, and within a few days my entire class was independently writing, creating, and publishing videos. Some students chose to continue working in pairs; others chose to make videos by themselves. It was much smoother than a huge roll out where everyone is confused and the teacher is pulled in a dozen directions at once.

I’m sure this has been done countless times, but I’ve never heard a name for it, so I’ll call it the “Kids-Teaching-Kids” method of technology implementation. Once my students were into the project, I still turned on the projector and showed the whole class a few tips and tricks, but mainly they were teaching each other.

I’d recommend this method to anyone who is hesitating to start a new project involving technology. Big rollouts are intimidating; starting small is a piece of cake. The next step for my class is to teach my school’s other third grade class, and then have the entire grade get another grade involved.

Has anyone tried a similar method of introducing new tech in the elementary? Or suffered from a disastrous big rollout? Let us know in the comments!

3 Comments

  1. Nick Corben

    Hi Jeff

    I read your post with interest, primarily because it resonated with me. In my school we have buddy classes, which meet once every three weeks on average. I teach Grade 4 and my buddy is Grade 2.

    To begin with, we did different math and writing tasks which were good activities, but as we were using more technology in class this has became more of our focus. The great thing, and you say this in your post, is that the younger buddy gets individualized attention and the elder is able to help, guide or instruct as needed. It works really well.

    My grade 4 students have developed their confidence, shared their knowledge and acted as great student teachers in areas of; Google presentation, Voicethread, organizing bookmarks, Zen presentations, locating Creative Commons images etc.

    I think it has been a powerful learning experience. Thanks for posting.

    • Jeff Lewis

      Thanks for the comment, Nick. Buddy classes are a great way for both older and younger students to learn, and they make the teachers’ lives easier too. Last year my class of third graders made plant documentaries with iMovie, no simple task, and it would have been difficult to pull off without the help of 6th graders who swooped in to offer assistance.

      Next week we are going to switch things around slightly…my class of third graders will show older kids how to create videos. It might be an interesting dynamic, but I love it when the teachers can step aside and let the students teach each other.

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